Senate Democrats are considering a one-year extension of current Medicare physician pay rates, according to several congressional sources, or only half as long as the two-year extension passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Senate Dems mull one-year extension on doc pay
The shorter extension in the Senate stems from challenges in finding the spending cuts or tax revenue to pay for the estimated $38.6 billion two-year cost of averting a 27.4% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Maintaining the current rates for only one year would cost $20.6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The House-passed version has drawn strident opposition from physician and hospital advocates concerned about the cuts to hospitals and other providers included as a way to pay for averting the physician pay reduction.
“The SGR needs to get done, but I'm not sure taking more money out of the healthcare system—particularly on the hospital side—is going to meet the overall purpose of addressing the SGR, which is to ensure access,” Dr. Atul Grover, chief public policy officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in an interview.
A coalition of the largest hospital advocacy groups in the nation (PDF) wrote senators Wednesday asking them to block the House-passed version of the SGR patch because it included nearly $20 billion in cuts to hospitals over 10 years.
The final legislative outcome remains unclear as both House and Senate Republicans continue to push hard for their overall version of the bill, including the two-year physician pay rate extension.
“The advantage is that physicians can plan and count on having the money there, rather than having to go through this every year and worry whether they are going to suffer a 28% loss or more next year,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a healthcare policy leader, said in an interview.
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